“Sometimes people say the strangest things after your baby dies, and it’s awkward.
You don’t even look like you had a baby.
Well, now you can drink again!
At least you can produce breast milk!
You gave birth? I thought you said the baby died?
What makes it especially awkward is these words are often being said by people who care.
Every one of those awkward comments was said to me by someone who was trying to be supportive.
They were doing the work of showing up, but they still had work to do in how they were showing up.
I know my losses stirred up a lot of questions and thoughts for them, but it wasn’t necessary for me to hear them all.
Having to endure all of that awkwardness made me resentful.
Over time, that resentment became a question.
When we talk to people, are we being thoughtful?
I think we often confuse thoughtful with saying the ‘right thing.’
And in our effort to say the one right thing, we ramble and often say more than needs to be said.
When you are offering support, your words don’t have to be profound.
They can be simple.
You don’t have to dive deep into the details of loss. Just be receptive.
If the grieving parent wants to engage in a more detailed conversation, they will.
We need to be thoughtful.
We need to know our audience.
We need to take a breath before we speak and ask ourselves if these words are going to help.
Being the recipient of such awkwardness has taught me a lot about what needs to be said versus what needs to be heard.
A grieving person does not need to hear the every thought and curiosity of the person trying to support them.
Just be thoughtful.
Being thoughtful won’t stop death from being an uncomfortable topic. Awkward thoughts and questions will still arise.
But supporting a person who is grieving is not about your own comfort–it’s about stepping outside of that comfort zone to reach a person you care about.
It’s about knowing your audience and understanding the impact of your words.”
This story was submitted by Rachel Whalen of An Unexpected Family Outing. You can follow her journey on Facebook here. Submit your own story here and sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Rachel here:
‘I stood hand poised over the silver handle saying my silent goodbye, wondering if I should wake my husband. The first time I flushed was in the bathroom of my old apartment.’: Woman recounts traumatic miscarriage
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